Karma – Categories and Types Explained

In our series about Karma, in the first post, we talked about why it’s important to understand karma and the second one which was published during Gurupoornima highlighted Why is Guru Necessary on Spiritual Path. In today’s post let us see how Karma can be categorized to understand it further.

Under the guidance and direction of Sai Baba, we have embarked on this endeavor to shed light on the topic of karma. In order to provide a comprehensive understanding, we have divided the subject into several parts. We may also refer to related articles for additional context and citation.

What is Karma?

Karma, with its profound implications, has become a prominent topic of discussion across various spiritual perspectives. In recent times, this concept has gained significant awareness and acceptance, leading to widespread conversations about it. However, despite its popularity and the general understanding people have developed, karma remains an enigmatic subject that is challenging to fully comprehend. The complexity arises primarily from the presence of numerous misconceptions surrounding karma and the lack of efforts made to explore its scientific underpinnings.

In recent years, Western societies have also begun to show a keen interest in karma, albeit with their unique perspectives and interpretations. Meanwhile, we, as inheritors of the rich spiritual traditions found in ancient texts such as Patanjali Yog Sutra, Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, and Upanishads, are fortunate to possess the roots of karma and its effects within our cultural heritage. Thus, it is imperative that we make an earnest attempt to understand karma in its true essence by delving into these profound spiritual treasures bestowed upon us by our ancestors.

In today’s post, we will focus on one section that aims to explain the concept of karma and its various types from different perspectives, employing simple analogies to aid comprehension. We kindly request you read the article multiple times to grasp the content fully. It is our belief that this understanding of karma, which we have acquired through the teachings found in Shri Sai Satcharitra, will be enlightening. Let us delve into the intricacies of the topic with unwavering faith (Shraddha) and patient perseverance (Saburi).

Karma, often misunderstood as a mere action, extends beyond actions themselves. It is the underlying cause that precedes the action, while the action itself represents its consequence. Notably, our thoughts also contribute to our karma. Consider a situation where anger arises, and you contemplate expressing hurtful words in your mind. Although you refrain from acting upon those thoughts when face to face with the person, the karma is still formed. This is because the initial intention and contemplation of those hurtful words have already influenced the karmic cycle. Thus, karma encompasses not only our actions but also the intentions and thoughts that precede them.

Karma can be likened to accumulated data gathered from various sources. It is acquired through the five senses, processed, and stored. The senses act as conduits for receiving and assimilating this data, which is then stored within the mind for future utilization.

For a simplified understanding, karma can be broadly categorized based on time into three main divisions: past, present, and future. Past karma (Sanchita karma) refers to the accumulated effects of actions and choices from previous experiences. Present karma (Prarabhdha karma) encompasses the actions and choices being made in the current moment, shaping our present circumstances. Future karma (Agamya karma) pertains to the potential consequences that may arise as a result of our current actions and choices.

This categorization allows individuals to grasp the concept of karma in a more accessible manner, enabling them to reflect upon their past actions, be mindful of their present choices, and consider the potential outcomes of their future actions.

The Profound Impact of Our Name On Karma

Our name carries profound karmic significance, shaping our understanding and identification. From an early age, our name becomes ingrained in our consciousness, consistently reinforced throughout our lives. This accumulated karma determines our roles within the family, society, and country. It influences how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Our name carries expectations, traditions, and societal constructs that mold our character and guide our life’s path. It positions us within relationships, responsibilities, and contributions, shaping our impact on the world. Recognizing the power of name karma allows us to make conscious choices aligned with our true essence, positively influencing our family, society, and country and thus it’s how it creates our identity.   

Exploring Genetic Karma and Purva Janm Karma

In addition to actions and thoughts, karma manifests in other forms, such as genetic karma. Our physical body itself can be seen as a manifestation of karma. Genetic karma plays a significant role in shaping our characteristics even before birth. It determines our physical appearance and, to some extent, our personality traits. It explains why we bear a resemblance to our ancestors and may naturally adopt certain habits from them.

Furthermore, there is Purva Janm karma, which influences the evolution of our soul. We previously discussed the two levels of intellect – higher and lower – and how our inclination towards either level shapes our actions and activities (Reference). If our intellect is predominantly inclined towards lower levels of existence, our souls will take longer to evolve. Conversely, if our intellect leans towards higher levels, our soul will progress at a faster pace.

When a person constantly seeks answers about the purpose of their existence and passes away without finding them, they are reborn with the unresolved inquiry. This indicates the maturity level of the soul. If one’s focus is solely on survival instincts, the soul remains at a lower level for numerous lifetimes.

These concepts highlight the intricate relationship between karma, the physical body, personality traits, and the evolution of the soul. Genetic karma shapes our physical and behavioral traits, while Purva Janm karma influences the progression of our soul’s journey. By understanding and acknowledging these aspects, we gain insights into the complexities of our existence and the interconnectedness of karma at various levels.

The Panch Koshas: Exploring Layers of Existence and Spiritual Evolution

Building upon our previous post (reference), we elucidated the concept of the Panch Koshas, which shed light on how our body forms and functions. Among these koshas, the Annamaya Kosha is the most tangible and observable, representing our physical body. It is the grossest level of existence.

The other three koshas – Pranamaya, Manomaya, and Vijnanamaya – are subtler in nature and primarily concerned with survival. They encompass aspects such as vital energy, emotions, thoughts, and intellect. The Vinimaya Kosha, specifically, operates at a more subtle level, and its inclination can either be oriented towards survival-oriented activities or spiritual pursuits.

As we transcend the layers of the koshas, we arrive at the Anandamaya Kosha, the bliss sheath. At this level, there is a state of pure awareness where no karma exists. It is a realm of ultimate fulfillment and connection with the divine.

Understanding the progression through the koshas allows us to recognize the various levels of existence and the potential for spiritual growth. By consciously cultivating a shift from survival-oriented activities towards a more spiritual inclination, we can move closer to experiencing the state of the Anandamaya Kosha, where karma is transcended, and pure bliss and oneness are realized.

The Essence of Prana: Exploring the Ten Forms of Universal Energy in Ayurveda

From an Ayurvedic perspective, Prana is regarded as a subtle manifestation of universal energy that permeates all aspects of life. It is believed to flow through the body and maintain its vitality and well-being. In Ayurveda, Prana is recognized in ten different forms, each serving a specific purpose and playing a unique role in the body’s functioning and overall health. These ten forms of Prana are:

  1. Prana Vayu: Governing the inhalation and exhalation of breath, it nourishes the lungs and ensures the intake of vital life force.
  2. Apana Vayu: Responsible for eliminating waste materials and toxins from the body, it regulates the downward flow of energy and supports the functions of elimination.
  3. Samana Vayu: Facilitating the digestion and assimilation of food, it helps distribute nourishment to various bodily tissues and promotes balanced energy.
  4. Udana Vayu: Governing upward movements in the body, it supports activities such as speech, swallowing, and sensory perceptions.
  5. Vyana Vayu: Responsible for the circulation of Prana throughout the body, it ensures the flow of energy to all organs and tissues, promoting vitality and coordination.
  6. Naga: Governing the process of eructation (belching), it aids in the elimination of excess air from the stomach and digestive system.
  7. Kurma: Associated with blinking and lubrication of the eyes, it helps maintain eye health and protects the delicate tissues of the eyes.
  8. Krikara: Supporting the sneezing reflex, it helps clear the nasal passages and expel unwanted substances from the respiratory system.
  9. Devadatta: Associated with yawning, it aids in the regulation of excessive heat in the body, providing a cooling effect.
  10. Dhananjaya: Governing the heartbeat, it ensures the rhythmic pulsation of the heart, maintaining proper circulation and vitality. It is the last prana to leave the body after death and is responsible for the decomposition of the body.

Each form of Prana plays a vital role in sustaining life and maintaining balance within the body. Understanding and harmonizing these different aspects of Prana is essential in Ayurveda to promote physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. By nurturing and balancing these subtle energies, one can enhance vitality, clarity, and overall health.

Exploring the Karma and Entropy in Interactions: The Influence of Vayu

Imagine a room filled with people, all engaged in the simple act of inhaling and exhaling. Just like the exchange of breath, there is an exchange of karma, the energy of our actions, within this space. Every interaction, every thought, and every intention creates a ripple effect, influencing the collective karma in the room.

In this analogy, we can also observe the presence of entropy, the natural tendency of energy to disperse and move towards disorder. As the individuals continue to breathe and exchange karma, the energy in the room fluctuates, sometimes harmonious and uplifting, and at other times tense and chaotic. The actions and intentions of each person contribute to the overall energy dynamics, shaping the atmosphere of the room.

This analogy reminds us that karma is not limited to individual actions alone but exists within the interconnectedness of our interactions. Every word spoken, every gesture made, and even the unspoken thoughts contribute to the exchange of energy and the formation of karma. It highlights the significance of our presence and the responsibility we hold in creating a harmonious and positive environment.

By reflecting on this analogy, we can gain a deeper understanding of how our actions and intentions influence the collective karma in our surroundings. It prompts us to cultivate mindfulness and awareness, ensuring that our contributions to the energy exchange are positive, compassionate, and uplifting. In this way, we can actively participate in shaping a more harmonious and balanced world, both within the room and beyond.

Understanding these types of Karma will help how it works and how to make use of it to attain goal of self-realization. We are nearing the conclusion of our Karma series. However, one important aspect about how to handle Karma to attain Moksha remains which we will cover in our next post.

Bhagavad Gita Quote

At the end of each post, we will conclude with a relevant Shloka from Bhagavad Gita and its meaning, to provide deeper insights and inspiration for our readers.

"तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया | उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिन: ||

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

— Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verse 47

Transliteration: karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi

Translation Word by Word: karmaṇi—in prescribed duties; eva—only; adhikāraḥ—right; te—your; mā—not; phaleṣhu—in the fruits; kadāchana—at any time; mā—never; karma-phala—results of the activities; hetuḥ—cause; bhūḥ—be; mā—not; te—your; saṅgaḥ—attachment; astu—must be; akarmaṇi—in inaction

Meaning: “You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”

Our Interpretation: This verse teaches the concept of performing one’s duties (karma) without being attached to the outcomes. It encourages selfless action, where the focus is on the action itself rather than the rewards. It highlights the importance of detachment and equanimity in the face of success and failure. By following this approach, an individual can maintain a balanced and peaceful state of mind, fostering a sense of inner growth and spiritual development.

Image Courtesy: Sai Baba Images With Quotes on Karma


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Hetal Patil
Hetal Patil
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